Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Reading Envy 119: Bread and Butter Writing

Paula, known as Centique in Litsy, joins me from New Zealand to talk books. Paula tends to read backlisted titles, because she is devoted to her TBR list. We talk translations, gloomy books, and cuteness.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 119: Bread and Butter Writing.

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Books Discussed:



Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
Land of Love and Ruins by Oddny Eir
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Buttermilk Graffiti by Edward Lee
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz

Other Mentions: 

Blackout by Connie Willis
All Clear by Connie Willis
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
Hugo Awards
Nebula Awards
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
Top Chef (tv show)
The Mind of a Chef (tv show)
Smoke and Pickles by Edward Lee
Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin
Tournament of Books
The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
The Eight Mountains by Paolo Cognetti
The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan

Stalk us online:

Jenny at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy
Paula is @centique on Litsy

Friday, May 18, 2018

Reading Envy Summer Reading

Ahoy! I have posted the official rules for Reading Envy Summer Reading in Goodreads, but wanted to post it elsewhere on the internet to allow for more participation. This isn't the same as a Readalong but there will be another one of those in the fall.

Instead, we are going to have a summer road trip and a summer picnic, only in the books we read!



Reading Envy Roadtrip Rules

1. Read a book about a place that isn't where you are. And yes, you may interpret this however you want. It can be any genre.
2. Bonus points for reading it in that actual place, like on vacation or a business trip.
3. Bonus points for a book about a trip.
4. Go to the Goodreads group (optional) and share your roadtrip read, and Jenny will create a map at the end of the summer.
5. If you post about it in Instagram or Litsy, please also add #readingenvyroadtrip


Reading Envy Picnic Rules

1. Read a foodie book. It can be a memoir, a mystery (or other genre) with recipes, a cookbook, etc.
2. Bonus points for making a recipe from that book.
3. Go to the Goodreads group (optional) and share your picnic read, and Jenny will create a menu at the end of the summer.
4. If you post about it in Instagram or Litsy, please also add #readingenvypicnic

Happy reading!

(When does summer start/end? Well, I'm on an academic calendar that rushes the lunar/solar calendar, so I'm calling summer June through August.)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Review: Tin Man

Tin Man Tin Man by Sarah Winman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book I've noticed for almost a year as my UK bookish friends got to read it way before it came out in the United States. I was so glad to finally get a copy!

The story is about two men who were childhood friends and lovers, without putting labels on it really, and the painful/bittersweet/nostalgic realizations they make as adults. Ellis does so after losing his wife and is trying to navigate life alone, Michael does so in his childhood writings that we see in the second half of the book.

But this description does nothing to capture the feeling of connection the author is able to make between the characters and the reader, the love and loss you feel alongside them. I think I read it without breathing.

Thanks to the publisher for providing access to this title through Edelweiss. It came out May 15, 2018.

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Sunday, May 13, 2018

Review: So Lucky

So Lucky So Lucky by Nicola Griffith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book reads so much like a memoir I had to keep reminding myself it isn't. The murder plots and shadow creatures are not real.

But everything else probably is, and based on the author's experience. Mara is working as the Executive Director for an HIV non-profit, very successful, and has just parted ways with her wife of 14 years, when she has a fall. It is revealed to be Multiple Sclerosis.

The writing is punchy and I found myself reading it cover to cover. I had always meant to go back and read Hild by the same author, a completely different genre from this one, so I was interested in this, not even knowing what it was. I didn't expect what I found, because I hadn't read anything about it. I think readers who have liked Lisa Genova's books on disease (Still Alice, Inside the O'Briens, Every Note Played, etc.) would devour this, but it has a different kind of intensity: it feels personal.

It feels personal, because it is. The author posts openly on her blog about coming out as queer, and then having to come out with MS later on. The character she writes in So Lucky knows how to mobilize, how to build community, and how to advocate, and it feels like the world beyond this novel has more hope because of it.

I supervise someone with MS, and I also want to say that this book helped me in my understanding of the daily life of this disease.

The author has even created a Spotify playlist to accompany it, which I always love.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me early access to this title through Edelweiss. It comes out May 15, 2018.

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Review: Three Sides Water

Three Sides Water Three Sides Water by Peter Donahue
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a collection of three novellas, all set at different times on the Olympic Peninsula. Overall they are slow burns, so I read one at a time between other readers. Since I'm going to Washington in June, and since I'm from the northwest (and have spent time a few summers on the OP), I enjoyed the particular placeness of all three.

"On Rialto Beach"
Rialto Beach is near Quillayute River, now protected as part of the Olympic National Park, right on the Pacific Ocean. A bunch of circus performers come here for a vacation from their lives of performing, and there is a disappearance. Or is it a murder?

"At Fort Worden"
Set in the early 1970s during the Vietnamese-American War, a boy lives (and escapes from) a juvenile detention center.

"Out of Shelton"
Very 21st century based on all the social media, the grandson of a lumber company owner wants to be Bing Crosby.

Thanks to the publisher for providing early access to the title through Edelweiss. The collection came out May 1, 2018.

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Review: Mating in Captivity: A Memoir

Mating in Captivity: A Memoir Mating in Captivity: A Memoir by Helen Zuman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Zendik is a communal organization, you might use the word cult, that I'm surprised I hadn't heard of before, particularly since it was housed in Hendersonville, NC, just 30-40 minutes from where I live, up until 2003. At that point it moved to West Virginia, to a large homestead. It got some press a few years back when that farm went up for sale, after the remaining founder of Zendik, Arol, passed away. It seems like Zendik more or less finished dissolving at that point, although you can still find their Facebook page.

The author of this memoir went looking for a communal society to join after graduating from Harvard, and landed on Zendik. She was funded by some kind of grant where she had agree to do research on this kind of society, but that was kind of a lie, as she really wanted to embrace it for herself. I found myself asking on a somewhat frequent basis if Harvard teaches anything like ethics or critical thinking, because the author does not seem to employ either in her decision making. Using grant money, over $10k, for something other than what you received it for, is surely against all terms of service! (She outright donates the entire sum to Zendik very soon after moving in as an apprentice, when they weren't even asking her for anything yet.) She also doesn't seem to be able to see the organization from the outside, which even if she was pretending to be the scholar receiving the grant, it seems like some baseline level of an understanding of fieldwork practices would have been employed.

Instead, she just... jumps in. Eager to have a different kind of life and to lose her virginity, a communal society where sex is arranged between multiple partners as long as both consent, and no property or body belongs to everyone seems kind of perfect to Helen. She embraces it but it does not take long before she finds out that actually, a lot of people pair off, and actually, she's going to have to sell stuff on street corners, and actually, there is a well-developed hierachy, and actually, the remaining leader employs a lot of crazy tactics that are common in fundamentalism and cults. It feels like she entered Zendik after its peak, after the founder Wulf, with his esoteric philosophies and rules, passes away. The group has picked up and relocated several times, but she didn't see this as a warning sign. From the memoir, I did get a sense that she has some trauma in her past, so perhaps that made her more susceptible, but I definitely found myself asking why! I think the author wanted to know why as well, and that's why she wrote this.

I know I sound critical, but a lot of people who get stuck in cults enter them as babies or after severe trauma or complete helplessness (drug addiction, homelessness)... Zuman is an educated person who just seems to make bad decisions. But I suppose it can be an interesting, if frustrating, read in that regard. (It's almost worse on the occasions where she leaves, hitchhiking without any awareness of personal safety.)

But I almost want to bump up the star rating because I enjoyed deep diving into this story on the internet. To that end, I bring you:

-The author's LiveJournal, where she had been writing her experiences and connecting with others from the same and similar backgrounds. This entry has a lot of the lingo and timeline associated with her time at Zendik.

-A Huffington Post article about the 2013 sale of the WV farm, with pictures of the space. The author was still a part of Zendik when they made the move to this location, but it almost felt like it was part of the reason she finally had to leave.

-Zendik Farm Arts Foundation on Facebook, not active in the last few years, but great photos of the founders, Wulf and Carol. They led the group from the 1960s on.

Thanks to the publisher for giving me early access through Edelweiss. They also published another leaving-religion title that I read last month, Shunned: How I Lost My Religion and Found Myself. This title came out May 8, 2018.

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Review: Only Human

Only Human Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is possibly my favorite of the Themis Files books. I ended up listening to the audio, which was a great experience. The author is even one of the voices!

Since so much of this book will spoil the previous books, I'll put my comments behind a spoiler tag. (view spoiler)

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